Mr. Bean Speaks American English:
Dynamic Grammar with Silent Video

Sep 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Intensive English Programs, Levels
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Katherine C. Guevara


—Motivate your students to practice and successfully produce target structures by giving a famous, silent, British comic a grammatically correct, American English voice. This article explains how to use Mr. Bean videos, and other silent videos, to get students to write, speak, and discuss before, during, and after watching. Most Mr. Bean worksheets available online focus on vocabulary and culture only, but Mr. Bean can and should be used for much more, including grammar, speaking, writing, and assessment. Students can watch videos during class or be assigned to watch them at home because of the convenience of accessing a multitude of Mr. Bean clips on virtually any connected device for free via YouTube (or through buying a clearance sale DVD of Mr. Bean clips if Internet access is not available).

image of actor playing Mr. Bean

Mr. Bean

The internationally known Mr. Bean provides mild humor and visual action rather than dialogue to suit almost any age, level, and culture of student. The universal topics of Mr. Bean videos, such as holidays, vacations, relationships, learning to drive, visiting the dentist, and taking an exam, align well with most textbook themes or units. Mr. Bean can also be used for practicing almost all grammar tenses, including the simple present for his habits, present progressive for his actions, future for probability or speculation, and so on. Grammar practice should be integrated before, during, and after watching a Mr. Bean clip, and truly any clip can be used for this purpose. For example, create a simple worksheet template by dividing the handout into three parts, with pre-, during, and post-viewing sections. In the previewing section, students write and/or discuss what Mr. Bean may/could/might do using grammar for speculation before they watch. In the during viewing section, the teacher frequently pauses and/or replays the video (depending on students’ level) to allow students to write and/or discuss what Mr. Bean is doing (present progressive) or always does (habits) and use action or nonaction verbs. Finally, in the post-viewing section, the students write and/or discuss what Mr. Bean did (simple past) compared to what he was doing (past progressive) and what they think he will do or is going to do (future). For practicing more advanced grammar, students could compare something Mr. Bean did to something they have never done (present perfect) or compare two of his actions in the past (past perfect).

Another worksheet template, this time for speaking practice, is to divide a handout again into three parts and seat students in pairs, one student facing/watching the screen/video and the partner not watching. The first part of the handout explains that the student watching has to speak/tell everything happening in the video to his/her partner who cannot see it so this person can listen and take notes in the space provided on the handout. The second part of the handout explains that the partners switch roles, providing each one a chance to be a speaker/describer and a listener/note taker. Finally, for the third part of the handout, the partners work together to combine their notes into one paragraph describing the action they saw by using the appropriate target verb tense(s). Teachers can collect such worksheets/handouts for grading or assessment. Thus, while students use Mr. Bean for practice and production in speaking and writing, teachers may find Mr. Bean useful for turning viewing worksheets into real assessments, as a diagnostic, cumulative review of grammar tenses, formative/summative exam, informal/formal test, or homework.

Teachers can support their diverse students’ success by using internationally familiar, cross-cultural comedy to foster scholarship and sustainable grammar in use. While theorists have lauded the positive effects of using video technology in the English language classroom for decades, the value of silent video is often overlooked. Silent videos, especially the mild and culturally acceptable Mr. Bean, can allow students to give such characters a voice through the use of English to, literally, put words in the characters’ mouths. Turning the sound down can turn students’ voices up. Therefore, silent video (not only Mr. Bean) proves to be useful and engaging to incorporate into lessons. When the affective filter is low, students can give a voice to a famous comic, showing that Mr. Bean really can speak American English!

Katherine C. Guevara is a lecturer at USC International Academy and an adjunct in the USC Rossier School of Education MAT TESOL Program. Her focus area is in IEP.

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